Release type: Transcript

Date:

Press Conference, Eagle Farm, QLD

Ministers:

The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business
Acting Minister for Education and Youth
The Hon. Scott Buchholz MP
Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport

PRIME MINISTER: 

Thanks very much. Thanks for your service too Ryan, and thank you for standing up and being our LNP candidate here in the seat of Lilley at the next federal election. John, it's great to be here with you again and to be able to see first hand your operations here. This great Australian operation. Of course, to Scotty Buchholz, the Assistant Minister who's played such a key role working together with the trucking industry, not just in what we're announcing today, but particularly over these last couple of years as we've been dealing with the challenges of COVID. And Stuart Robert, Minister for many things, but today in particular, the Minister for Skills and Employment. 
 
And today we are announcing the establishment of an apprenticeship for truck drivers. Now over the past couple of years, we have seen the number of drivers actually fall and we need to turn that around. And when we sat down with the trucking industry, Scotty and I, one of the key things that they said they needed was to ensure that we improve the qualifications of training and career paths for truck drivers in this country. And we said, got it, we'll get on it. And that's what we've done and working with Minister Robert today, we've been able to get all the states and territories to agree, and we will now establish a trucking apprenticeship here in Australia. Providing that important training and qualification which give greater certainty to people's careers in this incredibly important industry for Australia. We're a big country. That means we need a big trucking industry and that really means we need lots of drivers. And this new qualification, this apprenticeship will see more qualified drivers and we thank all of those drivers who are out there every single day, particularly on a hot day like this. They're out there making sure supplies of what needs to get out there is getting out there, whether it's vaccines or whether it's fruit and veg or delivering prawn feed up to up to up to the North Coast, Queensland going across the Nullarbor on the big long stretches in the road trains out there in western Queensland. These are the people that have kept Australia moving over the last couple of years and they've had to deal with a lot. There's been border crossings, there's been testing, there's been all the regulations that they need to comply with, and we've been very successful working with the states and territories to try and clear away some of that red tape, which was making their job harder. So I want to say to the entire trucking industry, thank you for keeping Australia moving. Thank you for keeping Australia supplied with all of those essentials that Australians rely on. And as we as a country are enjoying a Christmas break and a Christmas dinner and New Year's, know there'll be thousands of drivers out there on the road doing the job, making sure that Australia keeps moving. It's all part of our skills agenda. 
 
You know, today we have around 220,000 Australians in trade training, in skills and apprenticeships in Australia. That is the highest level we have seen on record since they were first kept in 1963. Through the JobTrainer programme, through the Boosting Apprenticeships programme, we have seen a 30 per cent increase in those and apprentices and traineeships over the last couple of years. And that's what Australia needs, and our government is investing in the skills and training that Australians need to get those jobs and employers like John West need here so they can get people into those jobs. And in the years ahead, that is going to be a key challenge for our economy. So getting the skills right, investing in the skills will ensure that we can secure the economic recovery that Australia is looking forward to in 2022. We have had an amazing employment record during the course of this pandemic, there's around 180,000 more people are employed today than there was before the pandemic started. So one of the lowest death rates, we've got one of the strongest economies in the world, particularly when it comes to people getting back into jobs, and of course, we also have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, which means we can stand this latest Omicron variant down and we can keep Australia moving just like our trucking industry is doing every single day of the week. Now Scotty Buchholz is going to tell you a bit more about the apprenticeship, and Stuart can tell you a bit more how that's plugging into our skills programme. And then I'll ask John to just give a word or two about what it really means for the industry. 
 
SCOTT BUCHHOLZ:

Thank you, Prime Minister. It is indeed an exciting day to have you here in Queensland to announce the establishment of an apprenticeship. So basically what it means for a cohort of kids that are leaving school now for those that don't choose a career path post in the university, if they are going to take on a boilermaker or apprenticeship as an electrician or something, they now have the additional capacity to apply for an apprenticeship in the transport and logistics game. Can I just draw your attention over the shoulder when it comes to like for like wages, a B-double configuration driving out of this yard line haul in North Queensland and driving come of between $100 and $120,000 a year. So if you're enthused by remuneration, transport operators, the transport industry is somewhere that you should continue to have a look at. But this didn't come about by accident. The industry has been enthused for no less than 30 years, three decades have been trying to secure this, and I want to thank all those peak bodies, all those industry groups that have made submissions to Senate inquiries, countless Senate inquiries and literally hundreds of submissions that are coming forward from around the nation. 
 
Prime Minister, we owe you a great debt with a great sense of gratitude. We were sitting in a room with about 12 significant operators in in Australia, here in Queensland, about 18 months back. And when you quite frankly said to the room, what are the biggest challenges facing your industry at the moment, the response was the average age of a driver in Australia at the moment is 56. So we have an ageing driver fleet and that's what we need to do something to attract the younger cohort to the sector. And the Prime Minister leaned across the table and pointed his finger at me and said, can you fix that? And standing here today, I can put my hand on my heart and thank you, Prime Minister, because you allowed, when you walk into ministers offices and say the Prime Minister wants this fixed, they operate at a different level of enthusiasm. So I thank you, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, without you, this would not have materialised. You would be without a doubt the greatest friend the transport industry has seen for 30 years. And for that, I am humbled because I love this industry and I love the importance, and without it, Australia stops. 2021, we saw here in Australia just how important our logistical supply chain is when we saw the panic buying and retail sectors night after night after night our transport industry met the challenges and supplied product to our table to make sure that that Australia kept moving. But ladies and gentlemen, it is with a great sense of pride and a great sense of pride today that I'll now introduce you to Stuart Robert, who worked very closely with the Prime Minister's Office, with us, with skills ministers around the nation to make sure that we could make this announcement today. Thank you. 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yeah, thanks Scotty. Thanks, Prime Minister. The Morrison Government is not just the best friend the transport logistics have, the Morrison Government is best friend tradies got. 220,000 trade apprentices training right now. Today, of course, the Certificate 3 apprenticeship in trucking simply adds to that number and opened the door for the transport industry to enjoy the benefits that come from the apprenticeship. This builds on what the Morrison Government has been doing right across the skills agenda. $7.1 billion is the investment we're putting through right now. JobTrainer of course, $2 billion will see 463,000 Australians, mostly young Australians, getting to training. We've already seen 270,000 of them take advantage of the opportunity for either zero cost or very low cost training to ensure they're job ready and ready to get into the marketplace. And we're continuing to reform the skills sector, we’re in the market now for industry led clusters, to determine what skills need to be. We'll continue to work with the skilling ministers around the country to drive these important reforms. I thank the skills ministers, they joined me in mid-November last month, to agree that we would move down this important apprenticeship so we can give a pathway for young Australians to move into areas in transport logistics. Great to be involved. Thanks Prime Minister.

JOHN WEST, OWNER AND FOUNDER OF JOHN WEST LOGISTICS: 

Thanks Prime Minister and Minister Robert and Scotty Buchholz. It's a real pleasure, a privilege to be here today. On behalf of the whole industry, there's been many, many voices and associates and friends here today as well. We are, it's a great thing for the industry, it'll help us immensely and will help us bring that age down. And it's great for the younger generation, they can start off a little truck and they'll end up driving a B-double. So it's it's a great thing. It's a big step forward for our industry. Thank you. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you. 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

It was great to meet Josh earlier. Josh, he didn't have a licence, he wanted to be a truck driver. The only way he could get here is he had to buy a bike. He peddled here. And now he's got his learner’s permit, to get his truck drivers licence and to embark on this program. That's that's what these apprenticeships mean, they can completely change people's career paths. You see a young fella like Josh, taking this up with both hands, is truly extraordinary. So good on you Josh and everyone who is going to be following your way. Happy to take some questions.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Prime Minister, can I ask about [inaudible]. So the company [inaudible][inaudible]. What makes you confident they'll be able to survive this [inaudible]? And also are you working with [inaudible] to guarantee a long term or, sorry, short term [inaudible]?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, there is particularly a short term issue here which we've been addressing, it is not unique to Australia, and we've been just calmly working through these issues, not just with the transport industry but of course, with the potential providers. And we’ve  been working on the potential import solution. We've also been able to put in place a domestic solution as well and [inaudible] I want to thank them for the work they've been doing closely with us, especially with Minister Taylor, who I tasked to lead the government's efforts in securing this. I mean there are short term issues, there are medium term issues, and now that we're addressing those short term issues, we'll continue that dialogue regarding the medium to longer term issues. But what's reassuring, I think, for the trucking industry, particularly in the transport industry, is that this is a government with, like with so many issues, there are challenges that come our way. We just apply our minds, we work with the industry, we come up with a solution and we implement it. And so we've been doing that, we’ve been to Incitec Pivot this morning here in Brisbane, but also doing it here with the trucking industry and getting young people into the industry. 
 
When it comes to running a country, you have to focus on the challenges that are ahead of you, and I've got a great team of ministers right across the board who are just able to get in there and roll their sleeves up and get these things fixed and a key part of fixing it is actually working so closely with the industry, understanding what their challenges are, being able to work on the solutions together. And so Australia can keep moving forward. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

Prime Minister, what does living with COVID actually look like to you? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

What it looks like is that we can go about our lives as normal as we possibly can, that we go about looking after our own health, which means we get ourselves vaccinated. A reminder that if you are not vaccinated that you are more likely to catch it, you are more likely to get a very serious illness and you're more likely to die from it. And so we don't want people to get ill and that's why we have the vaccination. And Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. We also have now around 1.4 million Australians who have also had the booster, Jenny's getting her booster today and my mum's already had it, and my mother in law is getting it next week. And I encourage Australians to go out and get their booster shots. You know, we've got 4.3 million doses sitting in the fridges in the distribution points, more than 9,000 of them around the country right now, and there are 13 million doses in Australia right now. So there's plenty of doses and there are plenty of points of presence. And as the time frame was reduced from six to five, there was a bit of pressure, but that's been able to overcome now and people will be able to get on and do that over the course of the summer break. But getting vaccinated is key to living with the virus, making sure people take sensible precautions, common sense. And so when there's an occasion and a need to wear a mask or keep washing your hands, make sure you're doing that. I've been doing that pretty conscientiously myself. Making sure you’re conscious of the health environment around you. If you're elderly or in a situation where you are more vulnerable, then you'll be more acutely attuned to these issues. But we have to keep moving forward with this. This is why Australians rolled up their sleeves. This is why Australians have worked so hard. The cases, of course, will rise with the Omicron variant. What we will continue to work through with states and territories is making sure we manage the impact on the hospital system and the primary health network. I welcome the decision that the Premier made here today. We have a 50/50 funding arrangement with all states and territories when it comes to their COVID health costs, which we put in place right at the start of the pandemic, and we are doing this hand in glove. The premiers and chief ministers, and I will meet again for a further update this week. We'll do that over the next day or so and we're pulling in more information as best, as it’s coming into the country so we can remain up to date on what is necessary. We'll keep fine tuning and calibrating the things you need to do. We always said in Phase C that there will be things that there's still be a need, potentially, for masks here and there, and there'll still obviously be the need for distancing and the testing and all of this that is part of living with it in Phase C. And ultimately, when you get into Phase D it changes again. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

Prime Minister, the South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has just said that you're going to be calling an emergency National Cabinet meeting tomorrow to discuss Omicron. Is this the case and what kind of things will you be looking at? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, that's what I just said and I have convened that and the purpose of it is just simply to give everybody an update on the most recent information that we have and to share the information with the states and territories have. It is more of an informal meeting that we're having, as I indicated to the premiers and chief ministers last night and today. Looking forward to catch up. I mean, it's not unusual that we would be meeting a little bit more regularly with Omicron being where it is. When we last met we made some decisions, and it's a good opportunity to update on all of that before Christmas. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

We're seeing it running rampant through Europe, do you see a return to lockdowns next year like the Netherlands and other countries are now doing? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, we'll make our Australian way through this. We always have. Obviously, the situation in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of the year for them is different to Australia. I can assure you they're not standing over there in the Netherlands in 34 degrees. It's winter and people are more indoors, and so we know that the virus does move differently in different seasons, and so what's important is people get their booster shots. Anyone who's concerned, and is ready to have their booster shot, I would urge them to go and get it because that is the best defence against Omicron, particularly for insuring against serious illness or what might require hospitalisation. And so that is that is the key advice that we have received. If we do that, then we can keep our nerve, keep calm and carry on. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

There are calls for the rapid antigen tests to be subsidised. Will the Federal Government look at that?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

We have all the way through, worked practically through the issues that we need to and we will continue to do that in a calm manner and a common sense way. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

So will you consider that? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

I've answered you. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

Just on Omicron, Prime Minister, are you concerned about the vulnerability of the airline sector and what would you suggest tourists do who are travelling around at the moment? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, I said this when I was in Brisbane last week, it's very important, I think we get some clearer certainty about what arrangements are. And I think Australians need to know that if they're going to get on the plane and go somewhere, they can get off at the other end and they can do what they went there to do and then return home and have confidence that they can do that also. And so I would urge for greater certainty around these arrangements. We're taking Omicron incredibly seriously. Every state and territory is. But we're also going to keep our head. We're going to, we're going to interrogate the data very closely, take the best medical advice we possibly can and make the right decisions for the Australian conditions. You know, remember, we've been doing that now, we're coming on for two years. What has been the result of the approach that we've taken? Lowest fatality rates, death rates in the world, one of the strongest economies coming out and through the pandemic and the highest vaccination rates in the world. That's what happens when you keep your head, keep focused on the future. Deal with the problems that are in front of you and you work together and you do so in a common sense and calm way. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

Just on that, Prime Minister, what's your message to Australians who are increasingly nervous about travelling over Christmas? Because they're premiers won't hold their nerve and shut again? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Well, this is, you know, these are points that we will discuss, I'm sure, tomorrow. This is why I would urge that there be very calm, consistent messages given about travel arrangements. 
 
JOURNALIST: 

But are you getting that feedback? Do you feel that they will hold their nerve or are premiers becoming ... 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

What's very important, and we did this when we worked through the national plan and under the national plan, we are now at a more than 90 per cent double dose of vaccination. And it is important that we do what we've always sought to do, and that is to save lives and livelihoods, protect lives and livelihoods. We want to stay safe, but we also want to stay safely open, so our economy can continue to grow. And people can get into jobs and they can restore their incomes and they can move forward with confidence with their lives. And so it is about getting that balance right. And that's why our government takes the very calm and common sense approach to these issues. As I said, we will get the best information to make those decisions.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Will you be encouraging a mask mandate?
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

We'll do what we always do and take advice from the medical expert panel and there will be circumstances where masks are common sense, and I've noticed that particularly with the uptick in Omicron. I mean, there is not that requirement in New South Wales at the moment, but anyone who's been down there recently will know that people taking responsibility for their own health are doing when they're going shopping or they're in enclosed air, whether they're in the venue. I mean, I was at Carols in the Shire last night. It was magnificent. It was fantastic, really enjoyed it with the family. But we were all wearing masks there last night. Not everyone was. But we chose to. And that's how it should be. I mean, as a country and as Australians, there are many things we're responsible for and our own health is one of those. The government will provide every support to support people's health, but equally, governments have been telling Australians what to do now for the last couple of years, and Australians have grown pretty tired of that as well. And the way we're able to live with that is because Australians making their own positive decisions about their own health and that means getting vaccinated and just following common sense basic rules about living with COVID.
 
JOURNALIST: 

Today's announcement was around young people. You're in the mortgage belt of Brisbane. What do you have to say to young people who are looking at house prices soaring? Are worrying about getting the deposit together. Is there scope to extend supports already in place? 
 
PRIME MINISTER: 

Oh, of course there is. At the last election, before the last election, the average number of first people getting into their first home was just under 100,000 a year. And then we introduced the first home loan deposit scheme. We subsequently introduced the homebuilder programme where I was with Ryan earlier this year, and we were meeting those families who are getting into their first home here in Brisbane, which is a very important issue in the electorate of Lilley and so many others here in metropolitan Brisbane. 
 
It is really hard to buy your first home. It's always been very hard. You know, it's even harder as time goes on. And that's why we introduced those programmes so people would be able to buy a first home with a much smaller deposit. Now since we've done that, 320,000 Australians have got into their first home since the last election, and that's extraordinary. Now it's still hard, but we've made it just that bit easier for them to get in there and those programmes are working, even in a hot housing market, it's helping people get into their first homes and this is included the family home guarantee. Now this is an extraordinary programme. I met some of those who've benefited from this down on the Central Coast just on Friday. This is targeted towards single parents and it's getting them out of public housing. It's getting them out of unpredictable rents and now they are buying their first home. I mean, can you imagine what that means to a single parent that they can get their kids into their own home and not be fighting in the rental market. Today,  177,000 people a year are getting into their first home. That's up from less than 100,000 just three years ago. So it's not easier, but the government is certainly helping a lot more than before. Thanks everyone. Great to be here.
 
[ENDS]